Perpetuating a Culture of Lower-order Thinking

I found this checklist offered as the next "best strategy" on Pinterest the other day. And while I do love easy to use, clear checklists, I pondered what the teacher was actually assessing.

Out of all of the items on this checklist for a "thoughtful" log entry, only one (no. 8) actually entails any assessment of thinking.  Everything else is...mechanics.

Of course, you might say that mechanics was the goal of the assignment. However, the title "Thoughtful Log" seems to belie that possibility. While we're wringing our hands at kids not being able to think critically, we need to stop and make sure that the assessments and evaluations we have designed actually promote that thinking. 

From a student's perspective, as long as I have complied with most every item, I will feel satisfied that I have done a good job.  And you can bet I'm going to do the easy stuff, first.

For example, the ability to integrate evidence from the text with context is certainly a skill that students need. However, checking off that they've "got" the evidence doesn't push their thinking. Rather, the item should offer something along the lines of:

        I've integrated evidence from the text (avoided a "dropped quote").

        I've clearly and purposefully contextualized that evidence.

These two quick revisions ask more of the student. They can still use Yes/No on the list, but they carry far more of a punch, cognitively speaking. 

Not to be outdone, I also came across this gem:


To be fair, this chart is identified as an elementary anchor chart for standard one in K-8 classrooms. Further, the use of the overarching question "How do [I] know?" is relevant and helpful.

Nonetheless, I have to wonder if it is absolutely necessary to have students use "said/says" when referring to text. Why can't we teach them a little bit earlier that text doesn't "talk"? Further, how difficult would it be to avoid having them write in past tense? Especially since the moment they hit high school, they have to use literary present?Consider the student who uses phrasing such as:

                            1. On page ___, the author writes..

                            2. The author argues/asserts/states/discusses...

                            3.  The graphic shows/reflects/conveys...

                            4. An example of ___is...

                            5. I know that ____because...

One thing that's going to happen is the student will most likely be compelled to write more in-depth; literary present does that. Further, the student will be much more aware of the author's role, which is crucial in helping them make the step "up" in analysis.

Or maybe I'm just grumpy, today. What do you think?

Mindy Keller-Kyriakides and former students are the authors of Transparent Teaching of Adolescents: Defining the Ideal Class for Students and Teachers.  Become part of the conversation!